Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
Address: Chemin des Fins 2, Case Postale 102, 1211 Geneva 19 - Telephone: 022 799 9100 - Fax: 022 799 9178

Human Rights Council – 17th Session

Report of the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Cephas Lumina.

Mission to Australia (7-11 February 2011) and Solomon Islands (14-18 February 2011)

Statement by Australia
31 May 2011

Australia supports the mandate of the Independent Expert and welcomes the UN Office for the High Commissioner of Human Rights’ efforts to increase analysis and research in this important field in line with Human Rights Council resolution 7/4.

Australia refers to the Independent Expert’s report on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights. Australia was pleased to provide comments on the draft report in April 2011. We note, with thanks, that some of amendments have been made in the final report, but are concerned by the number of inaccuracies that remain. We seek to address the key ones in our statement.

The Independent Expert asserts that AusAID does not have an overarching human rights-based approach guiding its policies and programmes, and that certain human rights issues are addressed in an ad hoc manner.

Many of Australia’s current international aid activities are directly relevant to advancing human rights, including in the areas of gender, disability, good governance, health, education, and law and justice. Australia’s aid program is implemented with the assistance of a wide variety of partners, including multilateral organisations, non-government organisations, educational institutions and experts engaged on a commercial basis. Through AusAID, Australia also directly supports the work of the UN OHCHR and other human rights organisations through the Human Rights Fund.

The Independent Expert’s report states that Australian technical assistance does not yet fully comply with the recommendations contained in the international aid effectiveness agenda, which requires greater use of partner government systems to deliver aid.

AusAID has implemented a number of important reforms to the way the aid program uses and remunerates advisers in order to ensure, when used, advisers are the most effective and value for money response to mutually agreed development needs with partner governments. AusAID has a clear strategy for progressing this, including through implementation of the recently introduced - and publicly available - Adviser Remuneration Framework and the Operational Policy on the Use of Advisers in the Australian Aid Program. The Framework and Policy emphasise transparency of information, demand-driven and partner led approaches and results-focussed, joint performance management. Australia is implementing this in practice. For example, in Solomon Islands where the Independent Expert also visited recently, Australia works within government systems providing support to approximately 40% of the health budget through sector budget support. In addition, Australia will provide budget support to the education sector from mid 2011 and is coordinating with other donors to provide support to the transport sector through government systems.

On PACER Plus, the Independent Expert was concerned that procurement of services for each Pacific island country to undertake a study on, inter alia, the social impacts of PACER Plus, appeared to be restricted to consultants selected by the Government of Australia.

This is not correct. Pacific island countries, not the Australian Government, select the consultants. The procurement of services was restricted to research institutions in the region. These institutions were selected because of their ability to provide high-quality advice on trade issues to Pacific governments, and include:

• University of the South Pacific;
• National Research Institute (Papua New Guinea);
• Pacific Institute of Public Policy (Vanuatu);
• University of Papua New Guinea;
• University of Samoa; and
• Institute of International Trade (Adelaide University).

Countries have not expressed concerns about the quality of training and indeed have requested this to continue.

The Independent Expert also stated that development assistance should not be used as a means of inducing Pacific island countries to enter into trade agreements.

The Australian Government fully agrees, and categorically rejects any assertion that might be made to the contrary in respect of PACER Plus. Australia’s overriding objective for the PACER Plus negotiations is to boost Pacific island countries’ long term economic outlook.

Finally, the Independent Expert expressed his concern about the lack of transparency in the activities undertaken by the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation (EFIC).

EFIC operates within the reporting requirements applying to all statutory authorities. EFIC has recently reviewed and updated its Policy for environmental and social review of transactions that commits EFIC to increased transparency including:

- Details of Category A projects (projects with a potential for significant environmental and/or social impact) considered by EFIC since 2000 are published in the Category A archive on EFIC’s website.

- Potential transactions associated with a Category A project currently being evaluated are disclosed for public comment on EFIC’s Category A register. EFIC also maintains an online register of transactions it supports.

Jubilee Australia is referenced as one of the NGOs providing information influencing to the International Expert’s concerns. Jubilee recently posted on its website the following comment: “We congratulate EFIC on making changes to the Policy and Procedure for Environmental and Social Review of transactions that demonstrate a genuine intention to find a more appropriate balance between public accountability and the commercial interests of Australian corporations”.